Aspen to get busier, but just how much? | AspenTimes.com

Aspen to get busier, but just how much?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen will start feeling busier next week. So will the airport.

So far, though, Aspen’s December reservations are lagging a bit behind last year’s numbers, at least until Christmas, according to Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass. He expects lodging occupancy for the week between Christmas and New Year’s – both holidays fall on Saturdays – to surpass last year’s numbers.

“The week after Christmas definitely looks promising,” said Tomcich, predicting a stronger week than Aspen and Snowmass saw last year for the final week of December. It appears more holiday business will spill over into early January, as well, he said.

Holiday activity will begin to escalate noticeably on Tuesday, Tomcich predicted.

“Occupancies will steadily build every day between then and New Year’s Eve,” he said.

Bookings at the Molly Gibson Lodge on Aspen’s Main Street jibe with Tomcich’s forecast. As reservations stand currently, the 53-room lodge will be about half full on Dec. 18, three-quarters full by Christmas Eve and nearly full for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, said a spokesperson there.

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At The Gant, a 140-unit condo property, reservations are slightly behind last year’s pace until Christmas, said Donny Lee, general manager.

“Absolutely, the holiday week, we are in pretty good shape,” he said. “We are looking strong.”

Current reservations put the stately 94-room Hotel Jerome at roughly three-quarters full for the final two weeks of the month, but local hoteliers anticipate their reservations ledgers will continue to fill in as the holidays approach.

“We’re either going to be up, we’re going to be down or we’re going to be flat,” offered one pragmatic innkeeper.

In Snowmass Village, bookings for December were up about 9 percent by the end of November, according to the latest occupancy report prepared by Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP. Tomcich attributes the boost to a number of ski groups booking stays at the resort. December room reservations in Aspen were tracking below last year’s pace by 4.7 percent as November came to a close, MTRiP reported.

However, bookings made in November for Aspen stays in December through February were “up strongly,” MTRiP said.

This month’s hoped-for holiday bustle will coincide, not surprisingly, with a seasonal bump up in service to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

United Express service from Denver more than doubled on Thursday – from five flights daily during the fall offseason to 11 daily flights. On Dec. 16, United’s four daily connections to Chicago, three to four daily flights from Los Angeles and two daily connections to San Francisco begin. Next weekend, United launches the resort’s first-ever nonstop connection to Houston; it will operate on weekends through the holidays and increase to daily service on Jan. 4.

United has also strengthened its spring schedule, presumably to match expected demand, given the spring’s late Easter and extended ski season. From April 3-24, United will offer eight flights daily as opposed to six in April last year, and offer new, daily April nonstop connections with Los Angeles, Tomcich noted.

Frontier, which has offered one daily connection to Denver through the offseason, will bump up to four flights daily, starting Dec. 16, but won’t offer extra flights on weekends this winter. Its service is currently scheduled to continue through April 17.

Though Delta did not return to the Aspen market this winter, United stepped up its schedule, giving Aspen/Snowmass virtually the same amount of commercial air service as it had in the winter of 2009-10, according to Tomcich.

“With all the changes, when I added every seat up, we were virtually the same as last year,” he said.

janet@aspentimes.com